NGOs call for more protection for maids in Singapore
In a joint report to the UN, two advocacy groups say domestic workers are not adequately protected by the Employment Act
Two Singaporean non-governmental organizations have submitted a joint independent report to the United Nations highlighting the unsatisfactory employment terms and working conditions faced by many foreign domestic workers in the city-state due to substandard protection by local laws.
The Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME) and Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) charged that domestic workers were not protected by the Employment Act, Singapore’s main labor law, Lianhe Zaobao (Singapore) reported on the weekend.
At present, there are around 240,000 women from Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar and other countries working as maids in Singapore. As they do not enjoy the same protections under the Employment Act as other types of workers, maids are often exploited by their employers, who force them to work long hours and deny them statutory holidays, annual leave or paid sick leave.
Though the government has mandated one day off a week for maids, many see their rest days canceled, as the authorities also allow employers to pay maids extra to work on their days off. Many women who owe their employment agencies money for job referrals give up their rest days for more wages in the hopes of settling their debts sooner.
According to HOME, many maids who seek assistance from the NGO earn around S$350 to S$650 (US$257-US$477) a month. If they are working more than 13 hours daily, some of them are making less than S$2 an hour.
In addition, at present maids are not permitted to change employers unless their bosses sign an agreement for them. In other words, foreign women are left almost no choices between accepting poor terms of employment or even violence from their bosses, or being sent back to their home countries.